Parents win court battle over hijab rule

Parents win court battle over hijab rule

A group of parents have won an Administrative Court judgement against what they felt was an unfair rule barring their children from wearing their hijab headscarves to school in the southern border province of Yala.

The court ruling marked a hard-fought victory after four years of legal battles.

Issara Ratthakaran, one of the parents, said the court's decision sends a message to Muslim communities that they are within their rights to dress according to their faith.

No school can have regulations that discriminate against students wearing clothing that respects their religious beliefs.

Another parent, who requested anonymity, said the court ruling brought tears to her eyes. "We're over the moon to hear the court deliver the ruling. It's the conclusion we've all been waiting for," she said.

The case began in May 2018 after the director of Anuban Pattani School in central Pattani cited a regulation prohibiting three girls -- Farida Almumeeni, Kadaria Hemmin and Idrib Hayeeteh -- from wearing the hijab at school.

The girls' parents were invited to the school where they were informed about the regulation.

The school, which is located on land belonging to adjacent Wat Noppawongsaram, does not permit the wearing of religious attire as part of the student uniform.

The school said all other students and their parents were well aware of and complied with the regulation without complaint, the parents were told.

The students continued to wear their hijabs to class and were given demerits.

About 20 parents later petitioned the Administrative Court challenging the validity of the regulation. The court then issued an injunction temporarily waiving the hijab ban pending a ruling in the case.

In the ruling, the Administrative Court said the constitution guaranteed people's basic rights and freedom. No regulation or law may curtail such rights, freedom and human dignity of an individual or run counter to the rule of law under the charter.

This extends to the practising of religion and participation in religious rites and ceremonies although such actions must not undermine people's duty as citizens or endanger the state's security.

The court said the school had no right to enforce the hijab ban on students. The court also ordered that the regulation and punishment for flouting such a regulation be removed.

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